spaceSpace and Physics

NASA Snaps Image Of Saturn's Other Death Star Moon


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Here we see the Death Star in the final stages of construction, as the Empire sets its sites on Alderaan.

Okay, just kidding. Funny joke. This is actually Saturn’s moon Tethys, seen from the Cassini spacecraft on November 10, 2016, from a distance of 367,000 kilometers (228,000 miles).


Tethys is about 1,062 kilometers (660 miles) across, with its surface mostly strewn with small impact craters, as the moon has no active geological processes to reshape its appearance. But one large crater dominates this image, called Odysseus.

It measures a huge 445 kilometers (277 miles) across, about two-fifths of the moon’s diameter, making it one of the biggest impact craters in the Solar System. Named for the Greek hero of the same name, it also has a large peak at its center where impact material fell back to the ground.

And it bears a striking resemblance to another famous “Death Star moon” around Saturn, Mimas, which has a similarly large impact crater. The crater on Mimas is actually just a third the size of the one on Tethys, measuring just 139 kilometers (86 miles) across, but its more pronounced features give it a bit more of a Death Star-like look.

Enjoy these images while they last, though, because in September of this year Cassini’s mission will come to an end. This will make NASA’s Juno spacecraft around Jupiter the only operational spacecraft orbiting a planet in the outer Solar System.


Mimas, seen by Cassini in 2010. NASA/JPL/SSI


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